The teen years are difficult for children and parents alike. This is the time children are searching for their own identity. They want to be independent, yet they still need their parents, although they will not admit it. For parents, it is the beginning of “letting go” and allowing children more freedom. It is a time when there is conflict between parents and children. In most cases, children are not rebelling against parents, they are declaring their need to be respected as an individual.
Children want to be treated as adults, but they are not adults and they need their parents, perhaps now, more than ever. Some families go through this period without much turmoil. But for many it seems constant, and never ending.
Mark Twain understood the difficulty of the teen years. Jokingly he had this to say about the teen years.
When a child becomes a teenager put him in a barrel and feed him through a hole in the lid. When they turn sixteen plug the hole. Mark Twain
Of course, he said this in jest, and did not mean for parents to do it. And of course, I would never encourage child abuse. What Mark Twain was demonstrating was his understanding of how difficult these years were for parents.
Communication is vital during these years.
The more children feel they can talk with their parents, the more they will seek their advice. Understand bickering will only lead to wider gaps in the relationship. Let children know you will be there for them, no matter what. Many children will find themselves in situations they are not equipped to handle and will need the support of loving parents. Just as God shows us His unconditional love, parents must be strong and prove this love for their children. Just as we need our Savior, our children need us to love them, especially when they are at their worst.
But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 (CSB)
Limit social media
By this age, most children have cell phones, computers, or iPads. Most are on social media. It will be difficult to pull children away from these. Do it gradually. Spend more time together, as a family. Take short weekend trips. Make sure children are involved in church activities. This is a wonderful time to introduce them to community service. Finding ways to help the needy will help them have a new perspective on life.
Social media has now been proven to be the source of much depression and anxiety among young people. Children often compare themselves with others on social media. They see the “fake” side of others and feel they are lacking in their own lives. Everyone has a need to be liked and accepted. Children are the most vulnerable to this. When posting comments, or selfies, children constantly check for the number of “likes” they receive. One negative comment can cause deep doubts about themselves and damage to their self-esteem. Online bullying is rapid, the more children are online, the more likely they are to become a victim of it. Sexual content is flooding the internet. Predators are lurking for unsuspecting children.
Support the development of their God-given talents
Encourage children to participate in the activities they enjoy and have a natural inclination to be drawn to. These could include sports, music, art, reading, writing, poetry, design, and many more. Take the time to teach children life skills, such as woodworking, sewing, cooking, knitting, and decorating. Being creative and seeing a project through to the end will be fulfilling, build confidence, and develop work ethic.
Avoid buying more devices
Unless an old computer needs to be replaced, avoid electronic devices. Electronic and online games are time wasters. They are very addictive and lack any intrinsic value. New apps are being developed daily, including many pornographic sites, which are easily accessible. Violence and fake news may cause children to accept questionable morals and values.
Remember You Are Still in Control
These are the years, you still have the control. After they go off to college, your influence will follow. Your children are constantly watching you, they will often point out your weaknesses, but they also know your strengths and values. They understand your expectations and they have learned from your example. Children may stray, but they will rely on their memories to repeat the good times when they become adults.
Use the years of middle school and high school to guide them and steer them in the way of the Lord. This is the time to be their parent, do not try to be their friend. They need a parent more than a friend. Saying “no” is not a bad thing. It teaches them there are boundaries, it will make them feel more secure knowing you will not let them stumble beyond their abilities to cope with the adult world.